UFC 273 takes places Saturday at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla.. The pay-per-view features two title fights and arguably the most intriguing non-title fight of the year. In the main event, featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski defends his title against The Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jung. In the co-main event, bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling finally settles his longtime feud with interim champion Petr Yan, and in a featured welterweight bout, one-time title challenger Gilbert Burns takes on the most exciting prospect to come to the UFC in many years, Khamzat Chimaev.
Let’s take a look at some of the best bets available on the card. All odds are courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Mackenzie Dern over Tecia Torres, -120
Part of me understands why this line is so close: Torres is on a good run right now, she’s scrappy as hell, and Dern is probably overrated. But despite all that, I can’t help but feel that almost everything here favors Dern substantially. She’s younger, bigger, more athletic, and arguably the best grappler in MMA. Yes, Torres is a better striker and uses more volume, but she’s not a finisher and simply lacks the footwork and distance management that Marina Rodriguez used to frustrate Dern. On top of that, Torres isn’t a great defensive wrestler, meaning that Dern will probably be able to score takedowns, and with her top control and grappling, one takedown may be all it takes. To win this fight, Torres will need to be close to perfect all night long, and that’s asking a lot.
Mark O. Madsen over Vince Pichel, +105
Madsen is one of the dark horses in the lightweight division. The 2016 Olympic silver medalist in Grego-Roman wrestling has been perfect in his MMA career thus far, and in Pichel, he faces an aging veteran who has historically struggled with good wrestlers. In other words, this is a good matchup for Madsen. The only real concern here for Madsen is his cardio, but with Pichel’s porous takedown defense (25 percent), Madsen should mostly be in control of this fight.
Jared Vanderaa over Aleksei Oleinik, -110
God love him, but Aleksei Oleinik is a few months shy of his 45th birthday and hasn’t won a fight in two years. Granted, in that time he has fought better fighters than Vanderaa, but the fact remains that Oleinik is just generally old and practically ancient in fight years. He’s been fighting since the first Clinton administration, for God’s sake. Vanderaa may not be great, but so long as he doesn’t get Ezekiel-choked in the first four minutes, he’s going to be able to simply outlast Oleinik.
Mickey Gall over Mike Malott, +180
This line is a perfect showcase of how hype plays with public perception. Mickey Gall is not an A-plus level welterweight, but he is a decent one. Similarly, Malott isn’t great, but because Malott is new to the UFC and coming off a quick submission, and Gall’s been around a long time and has notable losses, the public is all about the shiny new object. The truth is, these guys are pretty similar fighters, but I think Gall is the better grappler and the more dangerous striker. This fight should either be a pick’em, or Gall should be a slight favorite, so I’m taking the underdog value.
Petr Yan over Aljamain Sterling by KO/TKO, +150
I want to believe in Aljamain Sterling, but I just can’t. Sterling certainly has the tools to make this an interesting fight, but unfortunately for the champion, his game is not well-built to fight someone like Yan. We saw what happened last time. Sterling was unable to get his takedowns going against Yan and so he resorted to overly aggressive striking. He can be competitive with that for a round or two, but ultimately, that drains his card and plays into Yan’s “snowball-rolling-downhill” style of fighting. The same thing will happen this time, only Yan won’t throw the fight away.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik by KO/TKO, +110
Rozenstruik has had an up-and-down run of late, alternating wins and losses over his previous six fights. But when you consider that those losses have come against Francis Ngannou, Ciryl Gane, and Curtis Blaydes, three of the four best heavyweights alive, then that run doesn’t look so bad. Marcin Tybura is another step back in competition for Rozenstruik, and while Tybura is fairly durable and a better grappler, he gets hit a lot on the feet, and he’s not a great wrestler. Rozenstruik has show solid takedown defense, and he’s a much better striker, so I suspect this will look similar to Tybura’s fight with Derek Lewis, which ended with Tybura in a heap.
[Ed. note: Unfortunately, Rozenstruik vs. Tybura has since been canceled.]
Aspen Ladd by Decision, +250
This is the bet I feel the least confident about (aside from the Long Shot) but I can’t help but see value here. Statistically, Ladd and Raquel Pennington are extremely similar in terms of size and output, but Ladd is the better grappler of the two. Pennington is the savvier striker and a pretty good defensive wrestler, but she still gives up takedowns, and she will allow fights to come to her, which gives Ladd even more of a chance to get her own offense going. Add in that Ladd is still improving and Pennington is hitting that point where we can expect to see some regression and I think Ladd is being undervalued.
Parlay of the Week
Alexander Volkanovski over Chan Sung Jung, -720
Simply put, Volkanovski is one of the best fighters in the world, and for as much as everyone loves Korean Zombie, he is not. Moreover, Volkanovski is coming off a very similar fight against Brian Ortega. Like Ortega, Zombie presents the possibility of winning with a singular moment of brilliant offense, which is the only real way to beat Volkanovski. But the champ has proven to be exceedingly durable and nearly impossible to submit. At this point in his career, Zombie is probably just a worse version of Ortega, which means Volkanovski should show his class.
Petr Yan over Aljamain Sterling, -475
Everything I said above is true, but there does exist the possibility that Sterling doesn’t overexert himself early and instead, simply loses a decision. This accounts for that possibility.
Khamzat Chimaev over Gilbert Burns, -490
I wrote about this fight here, so I won’t dive into this one, but the short version is: Chimaev is the next big thing and also a horrible matchup for Burns. This should be one-way traffic.
Aspen Ladd/Raquel Pennington Fight Goes To Decision, -280
Pennington is absurdly durable and also not much of a finisher. That’s a good combination for a Goes To Decision bet, especially when you factor in Ladd’s most recent performance and both women’s propensity for slower-paced fights.
Parlay these four bets together for +125 odds.
Long Shot of the Week
Aljamain Sterling by Submission in Round 1, +3500
Forget everything else I said above, if Sterling is going to win, it’s going to be via early submission. For his many faults, Sterling remains a predatory grappler, and he’s entering into this fight with a huge chip on his shoulder. He’s spent the past year catching hell from half the sport, and I suspect he will come out for this fight turbo-charged. Sterling isn’t built to win a drawn out battle with Yan, but he could barnstorm him early, a la the Cory Sandhagen fight.
Obviously we had last week off, but before that we were starting to put together a good run. UFC Columbus treated us rather nicely, cashing all three of our straight bets and two of our three props. Let’s keep that roll going this weekend.
Good luck y’all, and gamble responsibly!
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